Marissa Johnson

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Marissa Johnson at microphone at an August 2015 political rally in Seattle, with U.S. Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders standing aside

Marissa Johnson (b. 1990/1991[1]) is an activist who attained notoriety when she interrupted U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders at an August 2015 rally in Seattle. Her activism has been associated with the Black Lives Matter movement.[2][2][3] She is founder of a Seattle-based justice group called Outside Agitators 206,[4] which was disbanded when she became a cofounder of the Seattle chapter of Black Lives Matter c. September 2015.[5]


Johnson had been noted in media outlets in Seattle and beyond for her engagement[4] and disruption of public meetings before the Sanders incident.[6] She organized a November 2014 die-in at a Downtown Seattle shopping mall which shut down the mall on Black Friday 2014.[7][8][9] At a January 2015 city council meeting to discuss the use of body cameras by city police, she caused suspension of the meeting and said "I don't need a home video of my oppression".[10]

Johnson has a black father and a white mother, and she describes herself as an evangelical Christian.[1][11] She has cited her faith as a motivator for her activism, saying "white supremacy is sin".[12] She graduated from Seattle Pacific University in 2013 with a degree in theology. After graduating, she went to work as a nanny.[1][13] Some writers have said she has been "smeared" as a Tea Party movement activist,[14] and she has said that her parents were Tea Party members when she lived with them.[1] Johnson has said that she once supported Sarah Palin as a national political candidate, and criticized "white liberal" people for being like Rachel Dolezal.[12]

The disruption of Bernie Sanders' speech was described by Seattle political commentator Maria Tomchick in December 2015 as being an important part of the "biggest news story of 2015", the expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement into the national political stage.[15]

Black Lives Matter Seattle chapter controversies

The Seattle BLM chapter of Black Lives Matter has been criticized while under Johnson's leadership for allowing anti-Semitic remarks at rallies in the vicinity of Uncle Ike's Pot Shop in Seattle, whose owner was accused of gentrifying a traditionally black neighborhood.[16][17][18]

Awards and recognition

Johnson was a nominee for's 2015 Courage in Public Service Award.[19]


  1. ^ a b c d Marissa Johnson: a generation of activists who believe in disruption, Nina Shapiro, The Seattle Times, August 15, 2015.
  2. ^ a b Bernie Sanders event shut down by Black Lives Matter activists, Alex Seitz-Wald, MSNBC, August 8, 2015.
  3. ^ Black Lives Matters Stands With Protestors In Seattle This Week in Blackness (podcast) (Elon James White ed.) August 10, 2015.
  4. ^ a b Michelle Farber (January 28, 2015), "Black Lives Matter in Seattle",, Chicago: International Socialist Organization
  5. ^ Condon, Stephanie (September 15, 2015), "Can the Black Lives Matter movement advance an agenda?", Official website, CBS News
  6. ^ Shapiro, Nina; Brunner, Jim (August 11, 2015), "Seattle Activist Who Hijacked Sanders Rally Well Versed in Disruptive Moves", The Seattle Times, archived from the original on February 23, 2016 – via HighBeam (subscription required)
  7. ^ Ferguson protests: Seattle police arrest five, close down Westlake Center mall, Associated Press, November 28, 2014 – via The Oregonian
  8. ^ Nina Shapiro and Jim Brunner (August 10, 2015), "Not first disruptive tactic for activist who shut down Bernie Sanders' speech", The Seattle TimesCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  9. ^ Black Friday turns to protests, KING-TV, November 28, 2014
  10. ^ Stephanie Klein (January 12, 2015), Protesters disrupt Seattle City Council over police behavior,
  11. ^ In Her Own Words: The Political Beliefs of the Protester Who Interrupted Bernie Sanders, Eli Sanders, The Stranger, August 11, 2015.
  12. ^ a b Rianna Hidalgo and Martha Tesema (October 7, 2015), "Silence is Broken", Real Change, SeattleCS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  13. ^ Woman who disrupted Bernie Sanders rally stands by white supremacy remarks by Richard D. Oxley, August 18, 2015.
  14. ^ Thank You, Mara Jacqueline Willaford and Marissa Johnson, Erica Garner, The Huffington Post, August 16, 2015.
  15. ^ Mike McCormick with guests Geov Parrish and Maria Tomchick (December 26, 2015). Mind Over Matters Week's News in Review (Radio broadcast). Seattle, Washington: KEXP-FM. 1:32 minutes in. Archived from the original (streaming audio) on 2016-01-05. Retrieved 2015-12-27. The biggest news story of 2015 ... expansion of the Black Lives Matter movement to the national stage ... and eventually into venues like disrupting political forums and speeches by some of the presidential candidates...
  16. ^ Charles Mudede (September 2, 2015), "Anti-Semitic Remarks at a Black Lives Matter Event Appear to Go Unchallenged", The Stranger
  17. ^ Josh Feit (August 26, 2015), "Anti-Semitism Creeps into Recent Black Lives Matter March", Seattle Metropolitan
  18. ^ Bryan Cohen (September 3, 2015), "With Central District I-502 retail a $1M+ a month business, 15th Ave E pot shop maneuverings play out",, CHS Capitol Hill Seattle, LLC
  19. ^ "Announcing the nominees for Crosscut's 3rd Annual Courage Awards",, August 27, 2015

Further reading

External links

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